Fire up a colortini, Tom

The Clash – Interview with Tom Snyder 1981

Growing up as a kid in Wisconsin, I was lucky that my parents were pretty lenient in what TV they let me watch, since they wanted me to figure out for myself what I liked, and what I didn’t. (Besides, they also knew that little on TV compared to my obsession with reading and listening to music in my room, anyway.)

One of my mom’s favorites late night was Tom Snyder. Above and beyond his unusual and sometimes prickly interview cadence, I think the fact that he was a Milwaukee native always made us a little partial to him.

As I grew up, and his three- year Late, Late show era on CBS began, I found myself drawn to his interviews, and couldn’t figure out why. Perhaps it was because he picked out-of-the-ordinary interviewees, or his techniques in getting subjects to open up was so unique. Or, maybe, more than I realized before to day, it was because he had escaped the very life I was living and made something out of himself, carved his own bizarre grotto in an increasing cookie-cutter media industry. Would he have found a place in media if he graduated from J-school tomorrow? I think not — too square a peg for the round-hole industry today.

In one my absolute favorite interviews he ever did, Snyder manages to prod The Clash into actually saying something about their music, and their aim to spread news to the world, something that previous interviewers had never been able to do. He plays along with their supreme silliness to a point, but simultaneously stands firm and expects answers, showing them that he respects them and wants to help them get their points across to the U.S. audience who might not be able to make it to Bond’s to see them (the interview was done in the middle of their unexpectedly extended Bond’s residency.) By the end of the interview, you can see that these normally elusive guys have quietly, begrudgingly given Snyder their respect, as a result.

At one point in the interview, Mick Jones says, “We got out. We show other people that it is possible to get out.” Thank you, Mr. Snyder. You, like The Clash, showed this Wisconsin girl that with work and creativity, it’s possible to respectfully leave a life that doesn’t fit you properly, and to create the life you want.

Wherever you are, I do hope you’re firing up a colortini, sitting back, relaxing and watching the pictures, now, as they fly through the air. We’ll miss you, but you certainly have earned your peace.

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